Think Tank Photo Shape Shifter Camera backpack Review

by Enche Tjin on April 19, 2010

When Think Tank Photo announced Shape Shifter last year (2009), I am a bit skeptical. I appreciate the fact that Think Tank Photo is an innovative company, but I don’t think the product worth the price ($249). Yes, it has collapsible feature so you can compress the bag down to 3 inches thick, but you need to separate the lens and camera body each time you want to put it into storage. I thought that will be a hassle.

Think Tank Shape Shifter backpack with Nikon D700, Sigma 70-200mm and Nikon 85mm

Think Tank Shape Shifter backpack with Nikon D700, Sigma 70-200mm and Nikon 85mm

So, why do I get this bag? It simply because I am searching for big camera backpack that enable me to store most of my camera gears plus a bag that allow me to fit my 17″ laptop. My old backpack, Lowepro AW II Nature Trekker [Review] does not have laptop compartment. After doing some research, I found that Think Tank Shape Shifter will able to do that.

During my research, I like the bag more and more. I realize that this is not a conventional backpack. Here are what I like about it:

1. It is for photojournalists, street or event shooters
The company products are developed by “mostly” photojournalists and cater to photojournalists. Most photojournalists hang their camera out most of the time. So, on the location, the bag will be empty or half empty. When it is empty, collapsible feature can make the bag slimmer. This is great especially if you are working in urban setting, or shooting social events like wedding. With a thinner bag, you can maneuver around much easier.

2. It looks natural
Because there’s no fixed padded foam that you find in most camera backpack, it does not appear like camera bags (huge, heavy and boxy). So, you can blend in crowded environment without attracting attention. Less people (especially thieves) will think that you’re carrying camera or electronic equipment on your bag.

3. It can pack a lot of stuff
Do not let the appearance of the bag fool you. It might looks light and thin (especially when collapsed). But this bag can store a lot of stuff. 17″ Laptop, 2 pro camera bodies (with grips), two telephoto zoom lenses, two wide zoom lenses, a couple flash/strobes, and a lot of accessories. You can mount a tripod or monopod too. Although you can fit in a lot of stuff, I recommend you not to do that because it is definitely not comfortable to carry around but ok for storage. Check out this bag pictures.

4. Quality and design
Like other Think Tank Photo bags, the Shape Shifter use top quality material, especially the zippers. The designers also put a lot attention to details. For example, there are so many compartments and divider for your accessories.

The not so good thingy

There are many to like about this bag, but there are also a few stuff that I don’t like. The first thing is the fact that I will have to separate camera and lens (or mount lens to camera) every time I need to store and take out my gear will be a hassle.

The second one is the waist belt. I don’t think that the waist bag that come with the camera is very effective. Sime from digital photography school reported that the waist belt sits too high although he is “only” 180mm or 5 ft 9″. I am 173mm tall and still find this waist belt is too high. Luckily, this waist belt is removable, and this bag is compatible with pro speed belt. But off course you will end up paying $35 more :(

In conclusion

This bag is very unique and versatile. You can use it for storage or transporting most of your gears, or you can use it for professional assignments, or for casual uses such as traveling. Don’t forget that it can also store a laptop up to 17 inches, which is why I was attracted to this bag in the first place.

UPDATE: I also miss the side pockets to put flash or water bottle.

For complete product pictures, please visit my photo gallery.

Fully collapsed

Fully collapsed

Fully expanded

Fully expanded

You can store your camera and lenses in the main compartment, and accessories in the opposite side.

You can store your camera and lenses in the main compartment, and accessories in the opposite side.

Related Post:

{ 3 comments… read them below or add one }

Sime April 19, 2010 at 7:23 pm

Howdy!!

Just to clarify “Sime from digital photography school reported that the waist belt sits too high although he is “only” 180mm or 5 ft 9″ — I didn’t review the one on dPS it was another fellow. (I’m 6′4″ and use a Streetwalker HD, Airport TakeOff, Digital Holster 50 and a SpeedRacer)

And I thought I’d share something else with you and your readers….

http://www.facebook.com/thinktankphoto?v=app_4949752878

Win stuff!!

Sime

Enche Tjin April 19, 2010 at 10:02 pm

oh okay hahaa sorry about it!

techno photo April 20, 2010 at 11:34 pm

I need that one that fits my camera, camera lens and other accessories to me. Nice post I will find that product on our place.

Leave a Comment

{ 1 trackback }

Previous post: Nikon new cameras on the pipeline, Nikon D90 or D700 replacement?

Next post: Mirrorless camera on the move